London reigns as the best city to hail a taxi, according to the annual global taxi survey compiled by Hotels.com®, the leading provider of lodging worldwide. Survey participants from 29 countries critiqued taxis on seven categories – Cleanliness, Value, Quality of Driving, Knowledge of the Area, Friendliness, Safety and Availability. New York City, Tokyo, Shanghai and Bangkok rounded out the top five best cities to hail a cab. Culture coach and founding partner of Dean Foster Associates, Dean Foster has been sharing his cultural expertise with companies for over 20 years. He’s provided us some tips for hailing taxis in these cities and his own personal experience.
- London - Bags will be stashed with travelers in the big personal cabin behind the driver, not in the “boot”.
- New York - Avoid “shift time”, usually around 4-6 p.m., when taxis passing by are “off-duty”.
- Tokyo – Most drivers don’t go by house numbers so the destination’s address, unless it is an iconic landmark, probably won’t mean much to the driver. Before leaving the hotel, have the concierge write down, in Japanese, the intersection, any identifying nearby landmarks, and, if possible, a small map, to be presented to the driver.
- Shanghai – Drivers don’t speak much English, so before leaving the hotel, have the concierge write down in Chinese the destination name and address on a card, then present it to the driver with two hands as this shows respect
- Bangkok –Take a tuk-tuk, a kind of motorcycle with a small one or two passenger compartment attached to the back. The advantage of the tuk-tuk is that it can scoot in between traffic thus actually getting travelers to their destination in a timely manner.
I’ve taxied in all of these cities – London, New York, Tokyo, Shanghai and Bangkok, and many more, but my most memorable taxi adventure was in Tokyo a few years ago. After entering the cab, true to form, the driver didn’t know my destination address. I did not present him with written directions, he spoke no English, and I little Japanese. After much mutual gesturing, efforts to draw recognizable sign-posts and such, a bolt of recognition finally flashed across his face, and we burst out laughing, in relief that we had figured out, against all odds and across cultural and language barriers, where we were going. The effort was great, and in the doing, not only had we solved our little mystery together, but we formed the beginnings of a relationship.
After a few minutes, my driver, in a soft, barely audible voice, began singing the words, “On top of Old Smokey, all covered with snow, I rost my true rover, by courting too slow.” “Now courting’s a pleasure”, I joined in, “and parting’s a grief”. And together we sang, “but a false-hearted lover is worse than a thief”. I added the next verse. Then he sang the opening chorus of that old John Denver song, “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” We worked our way through “Yesterday” by the Beatles, “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones, and by the time we hit “When the Saints Go Marching In”, that taxi was rocking. I am sure the closed windows on the cab insured that Tokyo was spared our remarkable duets; I got to my destination all too soon, and after I paid my fare, my singing driver stepped out of the taxi, came around to the curb, and gave me a very un-Japanese hug. I hugged back. Then we both bowed, and hesitantly said goodbye. I stood on the curb and watched as he disappeared into the traffic of Tokyo.